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Asian PS, ABS markets at 2½-3-year lows amid Chinese oversupply

by Shibu Itty Kuttickal -
  • 22/05/2023 (09:43)
PS and ABS markets in Asia have fallen to the lowest levels in two and a half to three years, hit by a triple whammy of sluggish demand, burgeoning supplies, and sliding feedstock costs. Players expect the bearishness to continue in the near term.

Chinese suppliers complicate market situation

The supply overhang, combined with weakening demand, has resulted in Chinese suppliers with new capacities trying to export cargoes, especially to Southeast Asian destinations. This has given rise to stiff competition and undercutting between different Asian production hubs for the export markets. “The situation has become more complicated with Chinese PS sellers aggressively entering the export markets,” said a source at a Taiwanese ABS producer.

Meanwhile, downstream requirements stayed weak in both China and Southeast Asia. “Buyers are making only limited purchases. Overall market activity is limited, and it is expected that weak demand conditions will persist. We’ll keep waiting for lower prices,” a PS trader in Vietnam said.

“Chinese offers are currently the cheapest and more competitive than other origins and it comes with 0% customs duty. At the same time, demand is weak, and prices are under a downtrend, so we prefer to wait,” said a Vietnamese trader. Ample export availability from China is also keeping ABS markets downhill. “Offers seem to be continuously moving south.

The decline is due to a drop in raw material prices and dull buying interest. Chinese sellers are focusing on export outlets because of the poor local market demand,” said another trader.


Asian styrenics markets in a downward spiral

ChemOrbis Price Index data show Chinese ABS local prices are currently trading at a three-year low at CNY10050-10800 ($1274-1369/ton) FD China, cash. On the other hand, Chinese PS prices are trading at two-and-a-half year lows at CNY8700-9000/ton ($1103-1141/ton) for GPPS inj. and CNY9000-9250/ton ($1141/ton-1172/ton) for HIPS inj., both on the same basis.

Among import markets, CIF China prices for ABS dipped below the $1300/ton mark in December and have mostly been at around the mid-$1300s/ton levels since then, current prices assessed at $1290-1370/ton. Such low levels are seen about three years ago in June, 2020. CIF China prices for PS were noted at two-and-a-half year lows at $1250-1290/ton for HIPS inj. and $1170-1200/ton for GPPS inj.

As for Southeast Asia, ChemOrbis Price Index data shows ABS import prices have hovered around the $1400/ton mark for most of 2023 till date, with the current assessments at $1350-1420/ton CIF. ABS prices have fallen by about 30% in the last one year since May, 2022. The data shows PS import markets in Southeast Asia also at two-and-a-half year lows, with CIF Southeast Asia prices assessed in a $1240-$1350/ton CIF range for HIPS inj. and at $1110-1270/ton for GPPS inj.


Costs down as styrene keeps falling

Meanwhile, production costs for both ABS and PS have been pushed down as a result of falling styrene prices. ChemOrbis Price Index shows styrene prices have fallen by about 12% since early March.

“The stagnant demand and falling monomer prices have been forcing us to keep lowering prices. Availability is ample too, and most buyers are currently preferring the Chinese PS, as they are much cheaper compared to other origins,” said a Southeast Asian producer.
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